Gosling’s portrayal is flat – and I’m being complimentary
Having seen the film, First Man, I wished I hadn’t. Somehow Hollywood has managed to take the one defining moment of the 1960’s, man’s first landing on the moon, and turn it into a boring snore-fest. Don’t get me wrong, I know Neil Armstrong was no dynamo in real life, but this movie made him and the landing on the moon as exciting as a piece of stale melba toast. I was trying to come up with a good metaphor or word for this film and the top contenders are, “shitburger,” “blahfest,” and “ruining-my-fucking-childhood-memory-you-monsters.” Pick any one of these when you tell your friends about this movie.
Going to the moon was exciting. It inspired my generation to get into computers, the sciences, etc. I wanted to be an astronaut as a kid…eventually getting into space as a science fiction writer. It was something that unified the world for a few minutes in a turbulent decade.
There was plenty of material for the writers to work with to make this a compelling story. What you get with this film is characters that none of us care about. We see no growth in them, no change. They are dull with unimaginative dialogue. There isn’t a single redeeming character in this film, and that feels entirely wrong. Even the scenes that could have made us all engage with the characters are downplayed or misrepresented entirely.
What is lost is the sense of national accomplishment in the race to the moon. Instead they weave in how some groups thought it was a waste of money – making me wonder if this isn’t the ultimate subtext that Hollywood is attempting to tell us with this film. While the Hollywood elite are all abuzz (pun intended) about Gosling’s portrayal of Armstrong, let me say that I have seen better dramatic performances in Food Lion on a Friday night.
On top of this, it is written in such a manner as to provide no context. It starts with Neil in the cockpit of the X-15. It doesn’t tell you why that flight was important or what it was setting out for, only that he is there and almost doesn’t make it back. It presumes we all know the role of that craft in our journey into space. There is less than two lines of dialogue between Neil and Michael Collins in the film. In fact, they never really explain his role or Buzz Aldrin’s. There is no chemistry whatsoever with the crew, with the Armstrong family, with anyone in this film. I didn’t even feel like it really portrayed the 1960’s.
Neil isn’t your typical hero-character – but neither was Charles Lindbergh. Maybe he wasn’t a good family man, but that could have been offset by the incredible accomplishment he did with being the first man on the moon. Instead this film misses all of that. We see nothing about what happened after his landing. This is sloppy, revisionist history at its worst.
I felt this film failed on so many levels that it literally dug a new failure-basement to bury itself in. As someone that lived in that era, it fails to capture any aspect that made this a hyper-historical moment. Quite literally, the writers took an easy win and made it dark, brooding, and dull. I found myself suddenly rooting for the Russians to get to the moon first so this movie would end.
Go watch the outstanding series, From the Earth to the Moon. Hell, watch some YouTube videos. First Man does not tell the story of the first man landing on the moon. Instead it tells the story of a shallow man, his annoying wife, and somehow he ends up landing on the moon. Do not waste your time on this horrible film.